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10-23-2011, 06:03 AM   #1
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Recommended Buy: K-5 vs. K-7 vs. K20d

Hi Friends,

It being my first time posting on this forum, I figured it was a good time to both introduce myself, and request a bit of advice from you more learned photographers. I started getting into photography just over a year ago and was determined to teach myself the ins and outs using film cameras. I have a k1000 which I adore, as well as some folders, toy plastics, tlrs, a dreamy rolleiflex, etc. My initial interest has exploded into a full obsession, but I'm finding that my learning curve is not quite as fast as my addiction curve.

Though I devour articles / blogs, textbooks (libraries everywhere are clearing out their film photography sections, sadly), ebooks, online videos, etc., I find that the area causing me difficulty is time. Because I have a full time and part time job as well as freelance work on the side (i'm a graphic designer / illustrator), I have precious little time to devote to my new hobby and, as such, the time between reading / taking shots / developing film (I don't do this myself... yet. I rely on a local lab) / seeing results is far too long and is cramping my ability to learn. I have therefore decided to take the plunge and invest in a DSLR. Obviously I'm going with a Pentax, as the lenses I've acquired for my K1000 would all be compatible.

Here is where I politely request a bit of help. I know this type of question has been asked many times over on this and other forums - believe me, i've read the majority of them - but I would love to hear the opinion of users here who perhaps come from a similar background as me, or have experience with the 3 cameras I'm interested in and can make a suggestion based on my needs, which are as follows:

I am interested most in street & candid photography, so I would need a camera well-suited to these types of situations. I split my time between living in Vancouver (rainy, damp) and Toronto (extreme heat / humidity in the summer and cold in the winter), so the weather resistant body of the 3 cameras I am considering (k5, k7, k20d) are therefore very attractive. Because a lot of what I like to shoot is in the early evening / night, the higher iso range of the k-5 is quite nice, as well as the continuous shooting range, though this wouldn't be make-or-break.
However, my mother owns a bakery and I would like to start food photography in order to shoot her products for an online store I'm building for her. So that, as well as the street photography, would be the 2 main areas I would use this for.

I have run the following comparison on this forum: Pentax Cameras | Pentax K-5 vs. Pentax K-7 vs. Pentax K20D - Pentax DSLR Comparison -

I would like a camera that I could grow into, not outgrow, and have decided on these due to their semi-pro features.I don't feel the need for the video component on the k7 or k5, those would just be an added bonus i guess, but i don't foresee shooting video that much. I just am interested in building a solid still-photography foundation, and i believe the instant feedback of digital shooting would definitely help me with that. The lack of Auto program mode on the K20d was at first a little disappointing, although since the point of this purchase is to learn photography, auto would perhaps be more of a crutch than asset. The lack of lens correction on the K20d, though, may hinder me a bit.

I have found 2 used k20d's available in my area that I will be looking at this week, (one that comes with about 1000 clicks, free memory card, all boxed accessories, the other with 9000 clicks, battery grip and boxed accessories - recommendations on which might be better assuming same condition?). But some features not on this that I feel I could benefit from are the leveling feature on the K7 (my horizon is always off. Always. I'm completely inept when it comes to straight shoots, despite my recently purchased leveller that attaches to my hot shoe). I also like the ability of the K5 to embed copyright information into the images. Not that I believe anyone would want to steal what i've shot, but it has happened with my artwork in the past and makes me a little wary of everything i post now, moving forward.

Money is obviously an issue - I'm not well-off to say the least, but I see this as an investment into something that I am extremely interested in and only see myself moving more into photography as I go, so should the K5 be the recommendation that wins out, I am willing to sacrifice in all other areas of my life to work it into my budget.

So! I think that's about it... If there is anyone out there who feels they can help shed some light on this for me, or even just offer their opinion, i would greatly appreciate it. I'm happy to answer any questions that might help you help me.

Thank you in advance for any replies.

10-23-2011, 07:44 AM   #2
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I love my K20D. The K7 is a refinement, as the K20D was of the K10D. The K5 is far beyond those.

My story: I've been shooting for over a half-century, but never Pentax. When I researched buying my first dSLR a few years ago, I was brand-agnostic, maybe leaning a bit towards (in order) Olympus, Sony, and Nikon. I had simple criteria for a camera. It must:
  • Mount the lens(es) I want, and
  • Keep me satisfied for years
The lens that drove me to Pentax was the DA10-17; nobody else had anything affordable like it. What also drove me to Pentax were the user ratings and comments at DpReview.Com. Too many other-brand owners expressed urgent desires to *upgrade* as soon as possible. I am beyond employment; I can't afford annual upgrades. I wanted something that would keep me happy for a long time. The K20D does quite well there.

What did I need for long-term happiness?
  • Ruggedness
  • Pro controls
  • Best sensor
  • Enough megapickles
Were I repeating my analysis today, I'd go for the K5. Its technology (and especially the sensor) are just way beyond the K10-K20-K7 generations. Some magazine named it the Camera of the Decade. Well hell! In 2008 (when I bought it, a month before Hoya bought Pentax), the K20D looked good for at least 5 years. It still looks good for another couple years from now. But now, the K5 looks good into the future, for a longer term than the K20D. That's how I see it.

Of course, the K5 isn't the end of the line. A new K3 could be announced at any time. Maybe K5 prices will drop then. But if we wait for the next best thing, we'll be waiting forever.

Note: the K20D does have Auto Program mode, and lens adjustments, and tethering.

Last edited by RioRico; 10-23-2011 at 07:49 AM.
10-23-2011, 07:55 AM   #3
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The K-5 is like a high performance race car, not just in performance, but in reliability too. As much as I'd like to buy one, I won't...
I won't buy anything with a horrendous track record for reliability. It seems like not a day goes by without another report of a buggy,
broken, bad K-5.
10-23-2011, 08:38 AM   #4
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I have a K10, K7 and K5

The K20 is similar to the K10 physically but with a sensor like the K7. The K7 and K5 are similar bodies with different sensors.

For me the K20 would be out simply because it and the K10 are very very loud. Street photography implies some level of being discrete, the K10/20 is anything but.

Between the K7 and K5 they are both excellent cameras, tine K5 being much much better at high ISO. High ISO is something to consider for then street, although the K7 is not too bad , just a little outdated sensor technology wise

None of the cameras would disappoint

10-23-2011, 08:54 AM   #5
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I have a K20. I upgraded almost 3 years ago from a K100. Its an absolutely wonderful camera as it has everything I want and need. Now I do a lot of evening and night photography, and the K5 is a VERY enticing upgrade (the lower ISO and the best dynamic range of the sensor available). I would really like to get a couple more years out of my K20. Right now I am comparing the difference in my mind of the images I could take versus the ones I am taking. Thinking and considering maybe a K5 when the new K whatever is announced probably 1Q of next year, and hoping that the K5 price for a new body will be lower than it currently is (who knows - certainly not me).

I too have been following the trials and tribulations of the K5, however with the 2 year extended warranty for $20, I am not too worried about it. That said, $1,000 is really pushing it for me - especially for something that is essentially a computer with a lens attached, thus outmoded quickly. As an aside, I feel that way about lenses too - thus, I do not have any SDM lenses. Screw drive is tried and true, noise and speed do not matter (for landscapes and cityscapes). I buy lenses for the optics - glass is what matters and electronics is a potential problem waiting to happen.

So, what to do? Is price a concern? If so, then I would go with the K20. A good used one goes for $400. Next up the food chain is the K7 - essentially the same sensor as the K20, but with the K5's body. If price is not a concern or if you could extend to the K5 price - then the K5 with the extended warranty - and buy from a known retailer like B&H or Henery's in Canada - who was running a $999 price on the K5 body only recently. If something goes wrong in the first 30 days - return it and get another one. Do not even consider a warranty repair until your are unable to do a retailer return. Also, I think that the factory warranty in Canada is 2 years.

As Rico noted the K20D does have Auto Program mode, lens adjustments (up to 20 individual lenses), and tethering. However, neither the K7 nor the K5 has tethering (by Pentax - there is a third party tethering that does appear to work for the K5 and K7). That may or may not be a concern.

A K20 with 1000 clicks is essentially brand new - the first ~200 clicks are from the factory for QC. For me the battery grip only makes the camera heavier. I get 600 images on a battery charge - so it just does not matter. Also, I live in Aridzona - where its dry dry dry and very very hot (115 during the summers). The K20 just clicks away...

As Lowell noted - you really can not make a poor choice here....

For leveling - a $3 bubble level on the hotshoe does wonders (for tripod shooting).EXIF copyright tags can also be added after the fact by software utilities.

Last edited by interested_observer; 10-23-2011 at 09:50 AM.
10-23-2011, 09:13 AM   #6
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The k20d is a solid camera, my brother shoots with one and it's 90% of the camera the k-5 is. The k-5, however, does have a very distinct advantage when the sun goes down and there are no flashes on hand. I see that you enjoy shooting street photos at this time, the k-5 would make a great investment if this is when you primarily when you want to shoot. Personally, i think a noisy image is better than no image, so if you really are worried about money, the k20d would still be a competent choice. However, the k-5 is simply a beast of a camera, i honestly cannot see myself upgrading from it for several years unless i somehow hit the unlikely event of becoming a professional full-time photographer. Being a college student, i'm not exactly rich either, but i think the k-5 is worth the few extra months of only eating cheap ramen
10-23-2011, 09:32 AM   #7
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I don't have any of those, still using a k-x, so I cannot speak from experience but you said you wanted a camera you would not out grow. Here is the link to comparison page here on the forums. Based on the specs I would rule out the K20D, there are a number of improvements that the K-7 and K-5 share such as a faster shutter speed, +/- 5 EV, 77 segment metering, dedicated AF lamp, lens correction, video, and a smaller body size. The only thing you give up with the K20D is tethering which does not seem like a big deal for you.

The differences between the K-7 and K-5 are harder to find and mostly revolve around the sensor. Here the K-5 wins with more MP, higher ISO, faster FPS, and slightly better meter range 22 vs. 21.

The K20D is 3 generations old, the K-7 2 generations old and the K-5 is current or perhaps almost 1 generation old assuming we get a new K-3 or whatever. From a sensor standpoint I don't think there is any question but to get the K-5. From a life cycle standpoint if a modern DSLR has a 5 year cycle (maybe optimistic) then the K20D has 1 year left, the K-7 has 2 years left and the K-5 has 3 years left. The K-7 is selling on ebay for anywhere from $500 to $1,000, one just sold for $1,299 body only last week, go figure. The K-5 is around $1,200 new. So is a newest generation camera worth maybe $600 more than an older generation one, to you? I don't think anybody but you can answer that when it comes down to economics. If you can afford it then the K-5 is a better camera according to the specifications and still current but the K-7 is also a fine camera and is probably a better deal assuming the price is right.

I would not worry about the difference between 1,000 actuations and 9,000, these are rated for 100,000 so they are just getting warmed up.
10-23-2011, 09:44 PM   #8
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I bought a K20 with 50,000 actuations on it, and it has been humming along nicely for over a year. It's a great camera, and coming from a K1000 you would like it. I mostly use center-weighted metering, and shoot 6MP JPEGs though, so I could be missing out.

K20 can adjust focus, as others have said; leveling horizons is easy on the computer; I found the battery grip too big and heavy. YMMV.

10-23-2011, 09:52 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by saff Quote
I am interested most in street & candid photography, so I would need a camera well-suited to these types of situations. I split my time between living in Vancouver (rainy, damp) and Toronto (extreme heat / humidity in the summer and cold in the winter), so the weather resistant body of the 3 cameras I am considering (k5, k7, k20d) are therefore very attractive.
The quiet shutter of the K7 & K5 is a significant differentiator for candid photography. The K-x was like a gun shot, the K-5 is just so so much quieter. With a prime on it's still not exactly small, but it's very small for a DSLR.

If you can afford it buy the K-5, otherwise the K-7. The K20 is bigger and louder than both.
10-23-2011, 10:52 PM   #10
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People are far more likely to see you point your camera at them than hear the sound of the shutter, so I wouldn't worry about the noise.
10-23-2011, 11:04 PM   #11
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K-x was my intro to Digital Photography.
Then I switched to K20D after a few months.
I think I'll keep this for a while. It's been treating me great.
I might go to K5 when their price drops under $500 (I'm guessing in 3-4 years?), but until then, I think K20D will keep me satisfied.
10-23-2011, 11:43 PM   #12
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Why did you move to the K20D from teh K-x?
10-24-2011, 12:08 AM   #13
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I disliked the viewfinder of K-x.
Too small, too little magnification even with the help of magnifying eyepiece.
I never used Video mode, I seldom shot over 800ISO, and it got bothersome when adjusting everything through menu. Dual Dial was a big deciding factor as well as choosing SCM AF, exposure switch, af point select, etc.

After comparing two camera for a while, I found that images K20D produced had some kind of...a character than K-x. I didn't need two camera, so I sold the K-x as I mainly used K20D in most situations.
K-x has a newer sensor with SP coating and blah blah. It produces "better" pictures, but we all know photography isn't all about that, right?

Ease of use made me switch over to K20D
10-24-2011, 04:35 AM   #14
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Wow, I can't thank you enough for all the great insight / opinions I've been getting on here. I was hoping for 3 or 4, but you guys have outdone yourself! I'm very appreciative.

The less noise of the K5 is attractive (although JHD's point is pretty valid). I guess what it will mostly come down to is price: the 2 used K20d's I've found online are in the low $400's, and the K5 new with tax would be over 3x that. So I think going to see the K5 in person at a shop, then seeing the K20ds in person (as I've yet to find a k7 for sale, so can't really compare that in person) will be the deciding factor - handling both and seeing what wins over based on what i've read here and personal preference.

Feel free to keep posting, I just wanted to write and say thank you all for your time and for helping out a complete stranger. Reading the opinions has been both entertaining, enlightening and educational to boot! I'm even more excited to just get one and go shooting already!
10-24-2011, 10:10 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by saff Quote
The less noise of the K5 is attractive (although JHD's point is pretty valid).
Let me expand on that... The K-7, like the K-5, is exceptionally quiet for a DSLR. In certain situations that can be useful, but when it comes to street photography I leave it at home, unless I'm at an event surrounded by people with cameras.

For discreet candid shooting I pack my NEX-5. Even though the NEX shutter is as loud as the K-x, people don't seem to be aware that their picture is being taken because I'm shooting from the hip with my face down to the LCD. The noise of the shutter hardly arouses suspicion because I don't appear to be taking a picture. Besides there is enough ambient noise in most environments that the sound of the shutter goes unnoticed.

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